Kudos on successfully wrapping up the first week of Preptober! Keep up the great work and if you’re just catching up with us, don’t worry; it’s not too late to start! Now, after drawing inspiration from others, it’s time to shift your focus towards your project.

But first, let’s do a quick check-in. How did last week go? Were you able to write your 420 words every day? How much time did each session take? Did distractions get in the way? If things didn’t go as planned, don’t worry; there’s still time to experiment with some solutions:

  • Write at a different time, maybe before the household wakes up.
  • Change your writing location.
  • Cut notifications, power off that phone.
  • Try time management tools like a Pomodoro timer.1

From this week, we’re aiming for 840 words per day—no joke! Focus on improving your speed and efficiency. Think less and write more.

Your other goal this week is to explore your story further by developing your characters, your world, and the tone of your novel. Let’s dive into that now.

1. Meet Your Characters

Crafting the protagonists is often the most exciting part of novel writing. Start with the basics: names, ages, genders, and physical descriptions. Sketching them, or using images can be helpful. Imagine their voices and how they talk. How do they dress up?

“…the characters must come fully to life in your imagination. Then objectively and accurately tell just how they looked and what they did.” –Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

Not much inspiration yet? Make a list of your five favorite characters from books, movies, or series, and reflect on what makes them memorable. AI can also help getting unstuck.2

Once you get the list of your characters, dive deeper:

  1. Backstory: Detail their past experiences, upbringing, family backgrounds, and events that have shaped them.

  2. Motivations and Goals: Understand their driving forces, goals, and desires.

  3. Personality Traits: Define their personalities, including strengths and weaknesses. Diverse and flawed characters are often more relatable.3

  4. Character Relationships: Explore how they connect or clash with others, what are the dynamics.

  5. Character Arcs: Plan character development, their moral dilemmas, doubts and challenges they will face. How will they evolve throughout the story? If you’re stuck, you can examine traditional archetypes like The Hero’s Journey:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” —Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Consistency is key. Make sure your characters’ actions remain in harmony with their traits and motivations from start to finish.

2. Build Your World

Many of the tips mentioned in the previous section can be applied here as well. What type of setting do you usually enjoy? Are you willing to conduct extensive research for accuracy, or would you rather use a familiar environment? Perhaps you want to create an entirely new and limitless world? That sounds appealing, but know that the constraints of your setting can bolster your creativity.

“The principle of creative limitation is vital. The first step toward a well-told story is to create a small, knowable world. Artists by nature crave freedom, so the principle that the structure/setting relationship restricts creative choices may stir the rebel in you. With a closer look, however, you’ll see that this relationship couldn’t be more positive. The constraint that setting imposes on story design doesn’t inhibit creativity; it inspires it.” –Robert McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

If you opt for creating a new world, or using one with which you’re less familiar, you need to clarify certain points beforehand such as:

  1. The Setting: Outline the physical and geographical aspects like the climate and topography. What about plants, animals or other creatures inhabiting your world? These factors will influence your story and contribute to the atmosphere.

  2. The History: Consider past events, civilizations and wars that have shaped the present setting. Is there any magic or technological advancement that influence the events?

  3. Societies and Cultures: Imagine various societies, cultures, and civilizations within your world. Think of their customs, languages, traditions, beliefs, and political systems. How do those cultures interact with each other? How do they impact your characters?

  4. Mapping: Create a map of the various locations in your world to visualize the settings and maintain consistency throughout your story.

Even if you’ve spent a lot of time creating a detailed world, don’t bore overwhelm your readers with every detail. Include only the elements relevant to your story and reveal information gradually through characters interactions, dialogue, and actions.

3. Find the Right Tone

The tone of your novel will determine the atmosphere and emotional impact of your story.4 Do you want to adhere to the conventions of an established genre –a suspenseful tone for a detective story– or try to subvert those conventions?5 We discourage writing with readers in mind, but considering your target can help you determine a fitting tone, if you are unsure. Is your novel for young adults, romance enthusiasts or a broader audience?

Be aware of your current mood. It will inevitably affect your writing. Use your mood to your advantage. When you’re angry, write the angry parts, when you feel down, write the sad parts:

“Sometimes I’ll wake up feeling crabby, and write an article in that not-taking-any-shit tone….and the feedback is tremendous because that pissed off mood helped me relate to something others are pissed about (example: Not being where they want to be in life). Use those times when you’re worried, sad, or angry to your advantage.” –Neville Medhora, This book will teach you how to write better

However, be aware of the tone you use an make sure it fits the narrative and the audience. Think of the narrative voice of your story, as it always plays an important role in setting the tone:

  • First-person narration: for an intimate and personal tone.
  • Third-person, omniscient narration: for a broader, colder perspective.

Note that the pacing of your story, the speed at which events unfold, will influence the tone as well.

4. Explore iA Writer Further

By now, you should be familiar with iA Writer, but there are some additional features you’d better explore:

  • Wikilinks: Getting lost in your worldbuilding or with the relationships between your characters? Link files together and connect your ideas with Wikilinks.
  • Content Blocks: Add images to your world or character descriptions. You can also compile several documents into a single manuscript using this feature.
  • Light/Dark Mode: Writing late at night or early in the morning when everything is quiet? Switch iA Writer to Dark Mode to better adapt your environment.
Preptober Light or Dark Mode

By the end of week 2 you’ve reached the halfway point of Preptober. Keep going and check back next week for Preptober 3: Outlining and Research.

  1. Learn more about the Pomodoro technique in this article

  2. Shavonne Clarke gives here her tips about using AI without having it write for her. 

  3. A great resource from the NaNoWriMo Team to deeply explore your characters. For character diversity check those blog posts and those videos

  4. Check Kirsty Logan’s top tips for creating an atmosphere. 

  5. See on Reddit this interesting exchange about this topic.